Lewis Weinstein's Reviews > The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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Dec 19, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: fiction-general
Read from December 06 to 14, 2012

I find the premise of children killing children to be horrendous. The fact that this book was so popular among children is equally horrendous.

What is omitted from Hunger Games is also a problem.

(1) There is no discussion of who is wielding the power to make children murderers, nor how they got that power.

(2) Other than a single line, I can't recall any hint that the heroine can even conceive of an act of rebellion. There is a passive acceptance of the status quo that is disturbingly reminiscent of Hitler's Germany. I am told that this question is somewhat addressed in volumes 2 & 3 of the trilogy, but by then it is too late, especially for those children who read only volume 1.

It is well past time, especially in light of the recent murder of 20 babies in Connecticut, to consider the impact on young people of such literature, along with comparable movies and video games.
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Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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message 1: by Cathy (new)

Cathy DuPont Lew:

For some reason, I have had no desire to read this book and never knew exactly why. Based on your review, now I have an idea.

Thanks for the 'heads up,' now I'll never have it on my 'to-read' list. It's just not a subject that interests me at all.


Lewis Weinstein I would not have read it except that it was selected by my book club over my objections. I wonder if Suzanne Collins feels any shame, or any responsibility for the murder of the babies in CT last week. She should.


Benjamin Thomas Lewis wrote: "I would not have read it except that it was selected by my book club over my objections. I wonder if Suzanne Collins feels any shame, or any responsibility for the murder of the babies in CT last w..."

Lewis, I respect your opinion and right to have one and I certainly respect that you didn't care for the novel. But I could not disagree more with your last statement. To hold an author of a fictional novel in any way responsible for the actions of a real-life mass murder is extremely disturbing. Do you advocate censorship of other novels as well? Do you want authors thrown in jail if they write of subjects that you find disturbing or offensive?


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I totally agree with Benjamin. It doesn't bother me at all that you don't like the book, Lewis. But your statement about the author and the Connecticut shootings is deeply offensive.


message 5: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob I'm sorry, but I think you've completely missed the point of this one. It's one of the strongest condemnations of the glorification of violence I've read in a long time. The story gives you a heroine who enters the games only to save her younger sister from doing so. The hunting she engages in is clearly explained as being an act of rebellion - it is not allowed for her type to go beyond the bounds set for her by the authorities, ie into the forest where she hunts. The every act of the two from her sector is seen as an act of rebellion by those same authorities, especially their final refusal to kill the other to save their own lives and the decision to commit mutual suicide rather than murder.
Katniss's mourning of the little girl Rue is one of the most moving scenes in the book and makes it clear - those who kill are wrong. It is even stronger in the film, where it is clear that the act of solidarity implied by it provokes a riot. The point is not as clearly supported by the first book, but is unarguably true from the context of the series. The book has less to say about America's gun culture as it does America's tendency to send its poor off to be killed in its wars.
I'd also have to disagree with the idea that there is no discussion about how this disgusting ritual started. The story is given of how the Capitol instituted the practice after the regions rebelled against its totalitarian rule. This was meant to punish the rebellion and rub the rebels' noses in the fact of their powerlessness.
Another powerful moment in the book, less well played in the film, is the scene where the mining families are urged to cheer the girl who is clearly sacrificing her life to save her sister and, they are told, going to bring glory to them. Instead of cheering, the assembled group give her the farewell given to a dear departed member of a family - a gesture like blowing a kiss to someone dead. At one point in the early Occupy movement, I heard of people on the Occupations giving that salute to each other - one group of real people feeling they are ruled by an elete which takes from them and uses force to ensure the situation will not change, taking a symbol from a fictional group which quite clearly represents the same thing.

Suzanne Collins is on record as saying she was inspired to write after channel surfing and finding it hard to see a difference between the way TV handled news of the war and so-called reality shows. She wanted to show up that desensitised attitude and you will find many fora on which the debate about how well she has succeeded goes on. If she did nothing else, her book has inspired that conversation among a large number of teenagers.
Again I'm sorry, but I see little evidence you've read the book carefully or in an unbiased way.


Lewis Weinstein I don't propose censorship, but I do think authors should consider the impact of what they write, particularly if they are writing for children. Hunger Games is part of a milieu that I find deeply offensive, and I don't think it is wrong to hold an author responsible for contributing to a culture of violence against children. Do those who disagree with me think Hunger Games did not contribute to that culture?


message 7: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob About as much as the story of Jesus encourages people to go out and crucify those who help the poor and heal the sick.


Lewis Weinstein Bob wrote: If she did nothing else, her book has inspired that conversation among a large number of teenagers.

That would indeed be a benefit.

I think I did read carefully, as carefully as a 12 year old at least, and the points you raised, while noted, were far overbalanced in my reading by the desensitizing to violence that I see pervading the book from start to finish.



message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Speaking as a 19-year old and so likely a part of the target audience for this book back when I read it, I saw the overpowering strength of character, of young people, striving to deal with a horrific situation. I found it very inspirational and certainly don't feel numbed to the violence.


message 10: by Steve (new)

Steve Lewis, I largely agree with you, although I have reservations about the cause/effect of reading books with violence as inspiring action. Nevertheless, I think your reasons are sound for not recommending such a book to a young person. The moral implications alone are sufficient. Regrettably, as I found out with a similar kind of review for Ender's Game, people don't tend to like such reviews. Sad....


message 11: by Lewis (new) - rated it 1 star

Lewis Weinstein Kerri wrote: "Speaking as a 19-year old and so likely a part of the target audience for this book back when I read it, I saw the overpowering strength of character, of young people, striving to deal with a horri..."

Thank you for your comments, which are encouraging to me. I would love to be wrong on this issue.


Richard Derus But I fear you are not.


message 13: by Richard (new)

Richard I admired your review of the Hunger Games in part because I think we as adults have a responsibility to the young: to critically examining pop culture on a moral level as well as an artistic one. The premise of this book is a ghastly one and the author shows that she is incapable of giving it any perspective for her audience. Pitting children against one another is a vile idea, but this book makes it seem glamorous because, essentially, you get to be on television. It is poorly thought out, with simplistic characters, insipid plotting, and atrocious writing. And even if we were to accept the notion that the heroine simply accepts that she has to murder other children, she is never actually put in a position where hard moral choices have to be made.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I am curious Richard...have you read the book? You have not marked it on your list so I can't be sure.

I would refer you to Bob's comments above for it seems you have also entirely missed the premise of the novel. I have no quarrel with you offering an opinion on the writer's ability to write...it's your opinion after all. But to say "Pitting children against one another is a vile idea, but this book makes it seem glamorous because, essentially, you get to be on television" makes me think you have not read the book at all. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The children and the adults who are not among the priviledged few abhor what happens in the Hunger Games every year. There is no glamour of "getting to be on television" for the protagonists. Reading speculative fiction is a great way to be exposed to what might happen given certain circumstances and to follow in the heroine's footsteps is to appreciate what it might be like to be in an incredibly horrible situation and wonder what you might do in similar circumstances.

It gets people to think.

So you say we as adults have a responsibility to the young. OK...so we should critically examine pop culture as you suggest. But you don't say what should be done next. We critically examine things all the time but the hard part is what to do about it. What do you propose should happen the next time an author wants to write a piece of fiction that you may disagree with?


message 15: by Richard (last edited Jun 20, 2014 09:36AM) (new)

Richard Thank you for your thoughtful reply Kerri. Responding to you in turn forces me to examine my reactions to the book more deeply.
Firstly, my apologies for the lack of books in my list. Back when I first joined GR, I used it as a lazy man's reminder for things I want to read. I will work on expanding it (though how people can keep track of everything they read is beyond me).
Secondly, again my apologies. I am completely new to social networking and I meant my first post to be an email reply to Lew (hence my ignorance of Bob's post). So I'll consider this reply my first official post, and please forgive any faux pas I commit..
I read the book when a friend in a bookstore recommended it to me. I could go into detail about my low opinion in a different post, but I am happy for other people who enjoyed it. Vive la difference. Here I simply mean to say I did read it, though it was several years ago.
My problem began when my then 10yo daughter said she wanted to read it. It was becoming popular in her school and some of her friends had read it already. I had deep misgivings about this. I think children at that age will not understand the scenario of people forced to kill each other simply as a condemnation of that “entertainment”. Not in any meaningful way. Nor am I sure of my ability to help her in this. I did not want to pass my experience on to her for the same reason I would not want her to, for example, play a violent video game at a friend's house for hours on end, or eat a cake for dinner. No, it won't do permanent damage, but it's another easy indulgence that isn't good for her or any child.
You and Bob may be right in arguing that the book condemns the glorification of violence. You both make some excellent points supporting that notion. Furthermore, I am prepared to be wrong about the glamor aspect of my earlier comment (I am unsure of memory here. I remember some passages in which the heroine is self-conscious about her close-up, and others in which she marvels at her beautiful costume, but those instances don't necessarily add up to being thrilled by 15 minutes of fame).
But any condemnation of violence-as-entertainment is weakened by the fact that it was made into a big-budget Hollywood movie, and by the inevitable tsunami of marketing horseshit that breaks atop children everywhere in this country whenever a blockbuster is made.

None of this however, really addresses Lew's initial misgivings. I don't wish to speak on his behalf, but I will recast the question this way: how old is a child before she can make the distinction between condemning violence and glorifying it? And why, if there is any ambiguity, would it be mass-marketed to the young (with all of the glamour of fabulous costumes, cool weapons, good looking heroes, explosions, special effects, etc.).
And the marketing works. Eight year olds are playing at Hunger Games. Imagine the Halloween costume choices you'll see this fall.
The core problem I have with any message of this book: does the heroine ever face any crucial moral dilemma? Does she ever think of the consequences of ending a human life? Each person she actually kills is done from either in extremis self-defense, or to protect another innocent (with the possible exception of the girl upon whom she casts the hornet’s nest--and even then, it's the insects that kill). There is no point at which she must face the awful hap of murdering a human being simply in order to win the game. And no-one that is equally sympathetic as she is to the reader is ever in her crosshairs.

I think that a young mind, not yet emotionally or intellectually mature, cannot and should not seriously be expected to understand that the book condemns violent television news/reality shows.

In answer to your final question, I hope that you and Bob are right that the book gets people to think. But I also say this. When I was a teenager, my best friend Greg's father was practically a dad to me (mine was completely out of my life). Mr. Cohen was a warm, witty, opinionated, lively science editor, recently retired from NY to FL, who treated me with the same love and respect he showed for his own son (and boy did I need that. I practically became Jewish because of his family).
Greg's father was morally opposed to the Army. He had relatives who had been murdered by the Nazis. He himself had lived through the Vietnam Era, been drafted, and had made certain that his "superiors" knew that he thought of his basic training as preparing for Mass Murder. What a guy.
I remember one day, as teenagers, we were talking about having to sign up for selective service in order to accept a Pell Grant to go to college. At some point, the TV show "Hogan's Heroes" (an insipid sitcom about WWII pows in an German internment camp) came up. Mr. Cohen's eyes flashed with anger. He condemned the show's entire premise as immoral. That such a thing was ever made into a TV show, it was insulting! What are children to think of such a thing? (And yes, he really talked like that).
I was surprised by his reaction. I had never heard anyone speak so stridently, about what I assumed was just another harmless article of pop culture fluff. And why would children care anyway? I turned his reaction over in my mind, but could make nothing of it, so I filed it away.
Years later, in college and enrolled in the ROTC, I was a 6'5", blue-eyed, War College wet-dream. And I was having serious misgivings about what would have been a free ride through school and possibly a commission and a career(one of my classes was called something like "Combat Leadership". It gave me nightmares). The thing that saved my brain was the comic vision of Irwin Cohen, saluting his sergeant and saying "mass murder, sir!"
So I pulled the plug on the whole thing. No scholarship, no career, no intel service. And no regrets (especially in light of the last 15 or so years of history). Greg's father had made a lasting impression on me. I'm glad I knew someone who had a conscience that he could not ignore, and who translated that into something meaningful for a rotsy kid to latch on to when he needed to listen to his own conscience.
So I think that is what we have to do as adults. Go deeper. Don't be passive in the face of mass market culture (like our heroine, right?). Take a stand. Be deliberately kind to people. Explain to children why you think that all of the stuff they're supposed to buy into and not think too much about has another level of meaning. Their choices have consequences. Their own consciences are worth listening to.
I'll shut up now.


message 16: by Cecily (last edited Jun 19, 2014 05:33AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cecily Don't backtrack too much, Richard! I think you're right on many counts, and I think that, despite the horror, it DOES portray glamour in being on TV: think of all the details about costumes and the camp guy (I forget his name) who primped and preened Katniss - even to the slightly pervy point of depilation by full body wax.


message 17: by Lewis (new) - rated it 1 star

Lewis Weinstein Richard wrote: "Thank you for your thoughtful reply Kerri. Responding to you in turn forces me to examine my reactions to the book more deeply.
Firstly, my apologies for the lack of books in my list. Back when I f..."


I am so pleased to have played a role in stimulating this discussion, fully 18 months after posting my review. Isn't GR a great forum?

My own view is still that "Hunger Games" is a horrible book that teaches all the wrong things. Its popularity is a reflection of so much that is so wrong with our society. I have not read books 2 & 3, and will not, so if the message changes there, I am not aware of it.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I too appreciate the discussion that has occurred here and all of the posts have similarly given me much to think about. I am a "young person" by most accounts at 20 years of age and am always happy to consider other points of view.

So Richard, thank-you so much for your willingness to spend the time and energy to post here. We will probably always disagree about this particular book because for me, the sum effect of it has been to make me think about the horrors of what could happen in our own world's future. Perhaps not likely, but possible. As a "child" in school I was assigned to read Lord of the Flies, which has similar concepts in that it is a "what-if" scenario involving violence among children. (I'm not comparing quality of writing here, just concepts).

But you answered my final question exactly the way I was hoping you would. Parenting is the way in which we should be guilding our children. For those children who lack parents or the benefit of nurturing parents, we can hope they will find mentors such as you did. And to allow the free-flow of ideas in forums such as this one can only benefit us all. Of course this sort of discussion would not be allowed in the world of the Hunger Games.


message 19: by Lewis (new) - rated it 1 star

Lewis Weinstein Kerri wrote: "I too appreciate the discussion that has occurred here and all of the posts have similarly given me much to think about. I am a "young person" by most accounts at 20 years of age and am always hap..."

I think it is much harder to be a parent today than it was when I had young children (my kids are now in their mid-40s). I watch my children raise their children and I am so proud of the efforts they make and the results they are achieving. Books and movies like Hunger Games do not help.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

I am more scared by the Nightly News and the NY Times than anything I have ever read in a novel or seen in a movie...


Benjamin Thomas Kerri wrote: "I am more scared by the Nightly News and the NY Times than anything I have ever read in a novel or seen in a movie..."

I hear that! I prefer to stay in my fantasy world of fiction and avoid the real world as much as possible :)

Great to see young people discussing important topics and expressing themsleves so well. Bravo Kerri for standing up to the "old folks" (I include myself in that group).


message 22: by Richard (last edited Jun 20, 2014 12:37PM) (new)

Richard Thanks Cecily. I'm kinda hazy on some of the details, but I do remember the full-body Brazilian. Ew.
And thank you for the gift of the word pervy, which I shall make great use of.


message 23: by Richard (last edited Jun 21, 2014 08:37AM) (new)

Richard Thanks Kerri, Lew, and Benjamin. We are indeed lucky to have GR as a forum. I'm surprised and delighted by the people here.


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